Tesla has announced a software update that could potentially save lives.
According to the The New York Times, Elon Musk’s auto manufacturer has locked access to “passenger play,” a feature that allows people to play video games on an internal touch-screen while the car is in motion. The move comes after U.S. safety regulators confirmed they were investigating the feature, which was made available in December 2020. The probe is being conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—a subdivision of the United States Department of Transportation—and covers approximately 580,000 Tesla models made after 2017.
The agency said it began the investigation after receiving reports that web-browsing and video game play were taking place on Tesla’s built-in screens while the car was traveling. It also learned that the function was not restricted to Tesla passengers, as its name suggests, due to the fact that the screen is located on the dashboard within a driver’s reach.
“Following the opening of a preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s ‘Passenger Play,’ Tesla informed the agency that it is changing the functionality of this feature,” NHTSA said in a statement. “In a new software update, ‘Passenger Play’ will now be locked and unusable when the vehicle is in motion.”
According to the Times, the agency is also investigating a series of fatal car crashes involving Tesla’s controversial Autopilot. The driver-assistance system, which allows vehicles to steer, brake, and accelerate autonomously, has been linked to dozens of road accidents and ten deaths since 2016. The NHTSA expressed concern that drivers were using Autopilot and passenger play simultaneously.
“There is no argument that can be made that this isn’t dangerous,” said Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.